People tend to have very different ideas about what constitutes a good rooftop bar. For some it’s all about the view, for some it’s the exclusivity of getting into somewhere like Marina Bay, and for some it’s simply about the open air and a more chilled out vibe.
Sydney is yet to acquire a world-famous rooftop spot that sets Instagram alight on a daily basis, but go hunting around the right corners of this great city, and you’ll actually find some fantastic rooftop joints that perfectly sum up the way nightlife should be lived in Sydney.
The Local Taphouse
One of Darlinghurst’s oldest pubs, the Local Taphouse was converted into one of Sydney’s leading craft beer pubs before craft brews really took off in Australia. Still pouring a blend of mainstream beers and samplings from the micro-est of Australia’s microbreweries, the highlight of the Taphouse is the chance to enjoy all of this, along with a fantastic eat-in menu, on their wide-open rooftop. Try one of the beer tasting paddles. You won’t regret it.
122 Flinders St, Darlinghurst, 2010
It’s a little bit dirty and certainly a notorious place amongst long-time locals and tourists alike, but Sweeney’s rooftop bar has been pushing their rooftop bar before it was even a thing. Located smack in the middle of the CBD with great views of the surrounding streets leading down to Darling Harbour, it’s certainly not all that flashy, but the music is good and few places are more vibrant across the weekend from top to bottom.
236 Clarence St, Sydney, 2000
The previously named Zanzibar underwent a drastic overhaul a couple of years ago, renovating its 3 floors to give a taste of the 50s and the prohibition era all in one place. Highlight of the bar is its extensive collection of whiskey, gin and cocktails, all of which can be enjoyed on a rooftop that’s long been Newtown’s favourite.
323 King St, Newtown, 2042
The one rooftop bar in Sydney that really sits within a high-rise, the people at The Rook are the first to take the more global idea of a proper rooftop bar and stick it high above the pavement of the Sydney CBD below. What sets the Rook apart as a par lays within its exclusive collection of liquor, gourmet burgers and, wonderfully, freshly caught lobsters.
Level 7, 56-58 York St, Sydney, 2000
The Glenmore Hotel
It’s crowded as hell most weekends, but the rooftop at the Glenmore has a view of the rocks you’d otherwise have to trek it up to Observatory Hill to replicate. Nowhere else can you get such sweeping views of the harbour while holding an overpriced alcoholic beverage in your hand, and its seclusion from the CBD means it’s a great post-work haunt during the week.
96 Cumberland St, The Rocks, 2000
The Light Brigade
The Light Brigade has brought a truly cosmopolitan feel to the Eastern Suburbs as if they didn’t have enough of that already. Nonetheless, few rooftop bars will ever manage to capture the terrace-style feel of the Light Brigade, with a curved art-deco bar slinging out Gatsby-style cocktails and wood-fired pizza for the eager masses.
Corner of Oxford Street & Jersey Road, Woollahra, 2025
The Horse gets a mention not just because of its lovely little rooftop setup right in the heart of Crown St, but also because it runs in conjunction with Chicken and Sons, purveyors of some of Sydney’s finest fried chicken. If there’s anything better than fried chicken on a rooftop bar, it’s fried chicken on a rooftop bar that’s made by legit fried chicken specialists.
381 Crown St, Surry Hills, 2010
Zephyr is the latest to join Sydney’s growing list of rooftop bars and this one may well take the Martini as one of the city’s best. Perched atop the recently opened Hyatt Regency is a stylish drinking space which takes full advantage of Sydney’s harbourside views of Darling Harbour. Heading the bar is mixologist Grant Collins of The Powder Keg fame. An open breeze, an amazing drinks list and a view of Sydney like no other make this the place to be at the moment.
Level 12, 161 Sussex Street, Sydney, 2000
Old Mate’s Place
The brainchild of Dre Walters (previously of Kittyhawk and The Lobo), Old Mate’s Place is easy to pass by and around the time of opening, you would only know about it by word of mouth. It has since earned itself a reputation as being one of the best rooftop bars in the city, not only because the selection of cocktails on offer is second to none, but because the rooftop space plants you firmly in the centre of surrounding high rises, giving you a totally unique perspective of Sydney.
Level 4, 199 Clarence Street, Sydney, 2000